Snowdonia National Park hosts the largest mountains in Wales and England. The attractions of Snowdonia, set against a backdrop of outstanding natural beauty, feature medieval castles, historic houses and elegant parks and gardens. Visitors enjoy galleries and museums, learn about myths and legends and can go deep underground to discover the area’s mining past. Located in northern Wales, a small gauge train ride took us on a journey through the mountains.
The Ffestinog and Welsh Highland Railways are two of the great little trains of Wales, offering a variety of travel options through northern Snowdonia.
We started in the coastal town of Porthmadog and took a relaxing 13-mile ride on the Ffestiniog railway, the oldest of the Welsh narrow gauge railways, completed in 1836. Chugging along to the historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, we then traveled by bus to the alpine village of Betws-y-Coed for lunch and an afternoon in the mountains.
Unlike what the name would imply, Snowdonia rarely gets snow but is one of the wettest parts of the British Isles with an average rainfall of 4,473 millimeters (176.1 inches) a year over the past 30 years. That makes for great hiking, biking and climbing with many unique shops in Betws-y-Coed catering to those who enjoy such activities.
Here is a photo gallery highlighting our day:
Visitors to Snowdonia are split about 50/50 between those who stay for a day and those who linger longer.
In addition to some terrific trains, the area boasts some deep discoveries including the Slate Cavers a Liechwedd where two different journeys go deep into a Victorian slate mine. King Arthur’s Labyrinth invites visitors to grab a hard hat and set sail with a mysterious Dark Age boatman on an underground storytelling adventure. On Electric Mountain, visitors discover the powers of pumped storage hydro-electricity.
Other attractions include touring a variety of castles and grounds throughout the area. On the coast of Snowdonia, Portmelirion is a magical village with colorful cottages, shops and cafes surrounded by sub-tropical gardens and miles of sandy beaches. Bodnant Garden, one of the finest gardens in the world, boasts the world-famous 55-meter-long Laburnum Arch, 200-year-old Giant Redwood trees – the tallest in the UK – along with magnolias, daffodils, rhododendrons and azaleas.
The area is also rich in heritage and history starting with Plas Mawr, the finest surviving town house of the Elizabethan era, still standing as a symbol of the prosperous age. Lloyd George Museum lets visitors discover the life and times of David Lloyd George, the cottage-bred boy who became prime minister during World War I. The National Slate Museum tells the story of North Wales’ slate industry with a film, slate-splitting demonstrations and the largest waterwheel in Britain.
One of the very best parts of our visit to Snowdonia though was meeting the friendly English-speaking people who worked and lived in the area. All were eager to share their love for this magical place they called home.